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Vladimir Putin's Russia Unleashes Massive Attacks Across Several Cities in Ukraine; Putin to Chair Russia Security Council Meeting After Kerch Bridge Blast; Human Rights Groups Cite At Least 185 have Died After Weeks of Protests in Iran. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 10, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, it is Monday, October 10th, it is exactly 5:00 a.m., I'm Christine Romans. Vladimir Putin's Russia unleashing what Ukraine calls a massive attack across several cities right now. The capital, Kyiv and the western city of Lviv are among those targets.

Russian forces using missiles, air strikes and drones. Officials say at least five people have been confirmed killed in Kyiv alone, all of them civilians. Senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen live at the scene of one of those attacks in Kyiv. And Fred, explosions in Kyiv and elsewhere this morning two days after Putin's bridge to Crimea was damaged.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly, it was a rude-awakening for us here in Kyiv early this morning. It was I'd say a little past 8:00 when the first explosion happened. You're absolutely right, I'm at the scene of one of them, I just got to get out of your way so you can see what's going on here, these rescue recovery crews have been working the whole time.

It seems as though right now, they're taking away some of the cars that were absolutely mangled by the explosion. We believe that the impact crater is where those people are standing around there. You can see some of that water coming out as well. It seems as though some of those water lines underneath were damaged, the explosion was that strong.

There's also at least one casualty here, one person at least was killed. We've seen the recovery crews remove at least one body from the scene as we've been working here throughout the entire morning. In total, the authorities have said that at least five people have been killed, but of course, Christine, as you can imagine, this is an ongoing situation.

And you know, the mayor of Kyiv, he tweeted not too long ago, he said people should really still stay in shelters because he believes that there might be more rockets or missiles coming from the Russians that could obviously endanger the city and hit targets in the city. One number that seems absolutely baffling as we look at things here this morning throughout the entire country, the Ukrainian general staff has just said that 83 missiles were launched by the Russian federation towards Ukraine.

Forty three of those have been taken out by Ukrainian air defenses. So, as you can see, it really is a full-on attack, not just here in Kyiv, but certainly in other areas of Ukraine as well. We have reports coming in, for instance, from Lviv way in the west that some infrastructure was hit there, that there's some power outages there.

Also in places like Dnipro and Kharkiv, also that there had been rocket impacts there. So, it certainly appears to us as though there are a lot of cities right now that are under attack by missiles, by longer-range assets if you will, that the Russians have. And of course, the Ukrainians believe this is in direct retaliation for that hit on the Crimean bridge.

Of course, there was an explosion there over this past weekend that crippled that bridge. It's the bridge that links mainland Russia with occupied Crimea, prestige project for Vladimir Putin, also an important supply route for Russian forces into the south of Ukraine. And no doubt, Vladimir Putin was very angry, and he publicly showed his anger, and it seems as though to the Ukrainians, at least, that this could be retaliation for that.

Again, the Ukrainians believe that this could be an ongoing thing, that their cities could continue to be under attack. In fact, the president of this country, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he already put out a video message saying, he believes that the Russians are, quote, "trying to annihilate us", as he put it. Speaking, of course, about the Ukrainian people.

ROMANS: Yes, that --

PLEITGEN: Christine?

ROMANS: Attack on that bridge, clearly, a humiliation for Vladimir Putin, that bridge that links Crimea. I've heard it called Putin's wedding band, marrying mainland Russia to Crimea, and really securing that invasion and that takeover of that land back in 2014. You know, it was just a couple of days ago that people were standing in Kyiv in front of big murals taking selfies with pictures of that -- of that burning bridge, Putin's burning bridge. The mood -- has the mood changed? Less jubilant I would assume now that there apparently is retaliation?

PLEITGEN: Well, I think it's changed for the meantime. And I do think that people here are heeding the warnings and they are taking this very seriously. One of the things that the Kyiv mayor has said as well is, you know, people who work outside of Kyiv, people who are in the Kyiv region, he's urged them not to come to the capital obviously, because they believe that there could still be further rocket attacks coming, also the subway stations here in the city are now functioning as bomb shelters.

That's something really that we haven't seen here in the past couple of months. Of course, quite a common sight especially in the early stages of this war when the Russians were still on the outskirts of Kyiv. [05:05:00]

So, people certainly are taking this seriously. And one of the things that we have to keep in mind, Christine, is that, over the past couple of months, it has become very rare for rocket attacks to happen here in the Ukrainian capital. In the early stages, it was unfortunately a very common thing to happen, but it's really become very rare, especially after the Ukrainians in April managed to push the Russians out of the Kyiv area.

And now of course, in general, are pushing the Russian forces back on many front lines. But that's not to say that this is not something that has been happening. You know, over the weekend, in the city of Zaporizhzhia, there were some serious, longer-range rocket attacks that happened there.

In fact, the Ukrainians say 43 people were killed there in the past couple of days alone. And the Ukrainians are now saying, as far as these longer-range attacks that the Russians are conducting on population centers here, the Ukrainians believe that civilians are the targets of these, and electric infrastructure as well.

The Russians have been using rockets, cruise missiles, but also the Ukrainians say suicide drones, kamikaze drones that have been supplied by the Iranians. So, the Ukrainians right now believe this is a full- on attack that's going on. They believe it's in retaliation to the Kerch Bridge, the incident that happened over the weekend.

But the Ukrainians of course, also are saying this will not change the course of the war. This will not change the fact that the Ukrainians are going to defend themselves, and of course, the Ukrainians are saying they in the end will prevail, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Fred Pleitgen, we'll let you get back to the scene and do your reporting. Thank you so much, keep us posted. So in just an hour, the Russian President Vladimir Putin will lead a meeting of his security council. That meeting comes of course just two days after Putin suffered that major humiliation there on your screen, a huge explosion, severely damaging a section of the road and rail bridge that connects Russia and Crimea.

It's the Ukrainian territory. Crimea is the Ukrainian territory Putin invaded and illegally annexed eight years ago. Putin blaming Ukraine for the blast.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): Here as reported, we have no doubts that this is a terrorist attack aimed at the destruction of the critical infrastructure of Russian federation. And authors, executors and masterminds are the Secret Services of Ukraine.

ALEXANDER BASTRYKIN, HEAD OF THE INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE OF RUSSIA: Secret Services of Ukraine and citizens of Russia from foreign countries are the ones who helped to execute these terrorist attack. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right, CNN's Salma Abdelaziz live for us in London this morning. So, Salma, I mean, right away, the Russians rushed rebuilding crews and engineers to the scene. And they've downplayed -- they've downplayed the damage done there. But how does this bridge blast complicate the war effort on Russia's -- from Russia's perspective?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Moscow absolutely wanted to appear ahead of this as quickly as they could, getting on the ground, repairing parts of the bridge, already rail services have been widely restored along that bridge. Cars are starting to be able to drive across that bridge as well.

Russia setting up free ferry services so that buses and large trucks as well could transport between mainland Russia and Crimea. So, absolutely, a huge effort there to restore that bridge, but make no doubt, Christine, that this is still a very personal affront to President Putin. As you mentioned, the wedding band that ties occupied Crimea to mainland Russia, struck in this attack.

The Ukrainian officials have denied responsibility for, but have been very quick to celebrate. There's a couple of things you need to point out here, first, you heard from my colleague there on the ground, Fred, about these long-range missiles that are being used. There's a clear message in that from President Putin, which is we can strike Ukraine anywhere, any time in an indiscriminate way, right?

These are residential areas, population centers and yes, Ukraine has an air defense system that knocked out just over half of the projectiles being fired on Ukraine, but that means, dozens still make landfall, dozens still threaten people's lives. And then going back to that bridge again, why is this so important? And it's not just the symbolism of it.

This attack showed a security gap, Christine. It showed a vulnerability. This is a Russian asset. It should have been tightly protected, tightly controlled. This simply shouldn't have happened. So, when we're looking at this security council meeting, Russia's own security council, of course, meeting with President Putin at the head in just about an hour's time, that will absolutely be at the top of the agenda.

How does the Kremlin respond to this? How does the Kremlin secure its assets? And I'm going to bring up the one thing that I know is on everyone's mind today in Ukraine, and that is the threat over and over again that we've heard from President Putin to use nuclear weapons if Russia's and territorial integrity is threatened.

Now, a Kremlin spokesperson said just yesterday that nuclear weapons will not be the response to this attack. But that is always the looming specter in this conflict, is how far will President Putin go when he's just faced yet another blow.

[05:10:00] ROMANS: All right, Salma, thank you so much for that. Keep us posted

there. All right, to the Korean peninsula now where North Korea says leader Kim Jong-un personally guided the recent wave of military drills and tactical nuclear tests. State media says the tests are aimed at, quote, "sending a strong military response warning to the enemies."

The report comes a little more than a day after Pyongyang fired two short-range ballistic missiles eastward into the waters between Korea and Japan. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is live in Hong Kong for us. What are South Korea and Japan saying about these missile tests? There have been some, I think 25 just in the past few weeks.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the highest number since 2011. Look, South Korea said it's important to recognize the severity of the situation and to prepare properly. And Japan condemned North Korea's missile tests and vowed to work toward complete denuclearization.

Look, a day after North Korea fired two more missiles, state media said that its leader Kim Jong-un personally guided recent military drills and tactical missile tests all in response to the large-scale military drills by the U.S. and its ally South Korea. Now, according to "KCNA", North Korea is confident about its capabilities. We have the statement for you, spring it up.

In fact, they said this, quote, "the effectiveness and practical combat capacity of our nuclear combat force were fully demonstrated as it stands completely ready to hit and destroy targets at any time from any location", unquote. And "KCNA" added a chilling detail that on September the 28th, North Korean forces held a drill to practice neutralizing airports in South Korea.

It also quoted Kim Jong-un as saying, he is not interested in negotiations. He is not interested in talks. North Korea has been carrying out a flurry of missile tests. It's conducted seven tests in the past two weeks, including one early on Sunday when it launched two missiles. Last Tuesday, it fired that missile over Japan, the first such launch since 2017.

And overall this year, the country again has carried out the highest number of launches since Kim Jong-un took power in 2011. Tensions are running high as the U.S. and its allies respond to this uptick in tests. We know that the U.S. has redeployed the aircraft carrier, the Ronald Reagan into waters near the Korean peninsula.

The U.S. has also held these joint military missile defense drills with South Korea as well as Japan. And the U.S. also announced those new sanctions to target North Korea's fuel procurement network. And on top of it all, Christine, world leaders are watching and waiting for any signs of a potential nuclear test which would be North Korea's first since 2017. And Christine, you remember what happened then, that was a time of peak tension. Back to you.

ROMANS: All right, Kristie Lu, thank you so much for that, Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And speaking of tension, Taiwan's president says Beijing must respect that island's sovereignty and it resorting to war is not an option.


TSAI ING-WEN, PRESIDENT, TAIWAN (through translator): The broadest consensus among the Taiwanese people and our various political parties, is that we must defend our national sovereignty and our free and democratic way of life. On this point, we have no room for compromise.


ROMANS: Speaking at Taiwan's national day celebrations, President Tsai Ing-Wen said she's willing to work with Beijing to maintain peace and stability based on rationality, equality and mutual respect. She also noted that Taiwan has been acquiring and building more precision weapons to boost its war-fighting capabilities.

All right, just four weeks until midterms in the U.S., and key Republicans not giving up on Herschel Walker amid his abortion scandal. Plus, protesters in Iraq not backing down amid a brutal government crackdown. And the truth about oil prices and the U.S. being the world's biggest producer only gets you so far.



ROMANS: Midterm elections are now just four weeks away. Control of the House and the Senate at stake with a handful of high profile races in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona and elsewhere. Georgia's tight Senate race is now even more contentious with Republican Herschel Walker denying claims he paid for his ex-girlfriend's abortion and even urged her to abort a second pregnancy.

Republicans are standing by Walker. Senators Rick Scott and Tom Cotton will campaign with him tomorrow. Let's bring in senior political correspondent for "The New Republic", Daniel Strauss. Let's begin in this Georgia race. Senator Rick Scott will campaign for Herschel Walker.

He says this, "the Democrats want to destroy this country and they will try to destroy anyone who gets in her way. Today, it's Herschel Walker, but tomorrow it's the American people." Can he help Walker's campaign here?

DANIEL STRAUSS, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW REPUBLIC: I don't actually know if he can. It's pretty unusual for an NRSC Chair to campaign for as many candidates down on the ground directly as this one has, this cycle. Rick Scott has made sure to be front and center in both major fundraising events for the NRSC and to hit the trail for multiple candidates.

And I think that is what we're seeing here. That Scott wants to be seen as incredibly present in key Senate races across the country, regardless of whether the candidate finds himself on the defensive like Walker or on the offensive like, say, Adam Laxalt in Nevada. It is no surprise, though, that Scott at the same time is making an effort to show that he's still behind Walker.

That's been the move that most major Republican groups have taken since the recent revelations about Walker and his calls to ask a former girlfriend to have an abortion. So, for Scott -- for Scott right now, what we're seeing is just him signaling to the larger Republican electorate that he is on their team, that he is following the same pattern as the major groups that are still backing --


ROMANS: Sure --

STRAUSS: Walker throughout this crisis.

ROMANS: Major groups like religious groups and the Christian Right who are still backing him because of his message, not necessarily his actions or his alleged actions. It's interesting to me that Raphael Warnock, the senator there, he's actually a pastor, he has not said directly anything about Herschel Walker's drama, but he has distanced himself by pushing his own stance on reproductive rights. Is that a good strategy?

STRAUSS: They seem to think so. And look, yes, I mean, in similar situations like this, the opposing campaign definitely wants to draw as little attention to themselves as possible and keep the focus on the campaign that's on the defensive. In this case, that's Herschel Walker's campaign. You think that this would be a particularly difficult situation for this campaign just because that the principal is a pastor, this is a southern state, this is a reliably red state.

But here, what we're seeing again and again is that, this is a campaign that has had -- that figured out its message on abortion, that wants to make clear that they are with the Democratic Party here, that they thought -- they see the polling, that their base really wants to see a pro-choice candidates out in the field, and they want to keep the focus on Walker, not on themselves.

ROMANS: Let's talk about Pennsylvania here, another big race. The Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman is back on the road against his opponent, Dr. Oz. This recent CNN poll finds Fetterman showing some momentum here. Four weeks to go. How does he -- can he keep up that momentum?

STRAUSS: I mean, we'll see. Polling has tightened in this race. At the same time, for basically entire cycle we've seen Fetterman leading Dr. Oz regardless of whatever has come up in the news, and part of this is just because of the effectiveness of Fetterman's team, especially his social media team has been very good even though the candidate himself has been off the campaign trail recovering from a stroke.

I -- look, right now, in this day and age, no candidate wins by margins of like 10 or 15 points in battleground states. I don't expect that to be any different here. I expect that if Fetterman wins, it will be by some middle or lower single-digit margin, which is still a lot in this day and age. ROMANS: Yes, and --

STRAUSS: So, he's still in the driver's seat, but that polling is tightening right now.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right, so many other races to talk to, Wisconsin and Nevada. We'll have you back. We've got four weeks to really talk about this race. Daniel Strauss of "The New Republic", nice to see you this morning. Thank you, have a great day.

STRAUSS: Good to see you, you too.

ROMANS: All right, ahead, a Texas D.A. now naming the police officer fired for shooting a teenager in a parking lot. And hackers take over Iran's state TV.



ROMANS: A human rights group says more than 185 people have been killed amid a wave of protests in Iran. At least, 19 of them, children.




ROMANS: Brutal security crackdowns have not slowed the demonstrations over the death of a woman in police custody for a dress code violation. CNN's Nada Bashir joins me live from London this morning. Nada, what kinds of tactics are being used against these protesters?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, look, Christine, we heard from human rights organizations across the board condemning the actions of the Iranian security forces, detailing the use of excessive and lethal force, we're talking about tear gas, metal pellets, beatings and even live fire ammunition now being used against peaceful protesters.

Just over the weekend in the Kurdish cities of Sanandaj and Saqqez, we saw according to one human rights group based in Iran, the reported shooting by the Iranian security forces of four individuals, at least, four people killed across those two cities. And as you laid out there, the death toll, according to human rights groups, appears to be rising.

This is a brutal and deadly crackdown by the security forces. We heard just yesterday from Iran's deputy Interior Minister for Security and Law Enforcement outlining the regime's hard-line response to what he has described as riots, not protests, saying that those arrested by the authorities and police will be tried quickly and that their verdicts would be a deterrent for others hoping to take part in these protests. But look, we have seen these demonstrations taking place up and down

the country for the last few weeks now, and they are appearing to pick up momentum. And just over the weekend actually, we did see what appeared to be the hacking of Iran's state broadcaster on Saturday, interrupting its nightly news program at around 9:00 p.m. local time.

Momentarily, bringing up the image of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with what appeared to be a target superimposed on his face. What was perhaps most poignant about that was the projection of four images of four women as you laid out there who have died over the course of these demonstrations.

Mahsa Amini who died in the custody of Iran's notorious morality police for allegedly contravening the country's conservative dress code as well as Nika Shakarami, Hadis Najafi and Sarina Esmailzadeh, three women who have really gotten the attention of the Iranian people.

And this of course is just another show of defiance by a hacker group, but also clearly, a representation of the disillusionment growing across the country --

ROMANS: Absolutely --

BASHIR: Christine?

ROMANS: All right, Nada, thank you so much for that.